Former presidential hopeful John Edwards was found not guilty of one out of six counts in his federal corruption trial Thursday and a mistrial was declared after the jury failed to return a verdict on the remaining five charges.
Edwards was found not guilty of misusing campaign funds donated by wealthy benefactor Rachel “Bunny” Mellon. The former senator was accused of using almost $1 million in donations to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter.
A few hours before the verdict was announced, the jury emerged to say they were unanimous on count three, but had not yet reached a verdict on the other charges. Judge Catherine C. Eagles then ordered the jury back into deliberations.
Defense attorneys asked Eagles to declare a mistrial on the other counts.
Edwards was charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of falsifying campaign statements and four counts of accepting contributions that exceeded legal limits. He faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
The jury began deliberating May 18 after 17 days of testimony that seemed more like a soap opera than a criminal trial. Even the jury at times showed inappropriate behavior, such as matching clothes.
A key witness in the case was former aide Andrew Young, who admitted to taking money from secret donations meant to hide Hunter and using them to build his own $1.6 million dream home.
Defense attorneys argued Edwards had no knowledge of the mishandling of money and other misdeeds, and he was only guilty of being a horrible husband to his wife, Elizabeth, who was battling cancer at the time of the affair.
Records and testimony show that wealthy benefactor Rachel “Bunny” Melon donated about $750,000 to the Edwards campaign. Other financing came from Fred Baron, a wealthy Texas lawyer who served as Edwards’ campaign finance chairman.